Luke Hochevar was tired of getting knocked around by the Los Angeles Angels so he took a new approach.
Hochevar took a shutout into the seventh inning and the Kansas City Royals got solo homers from Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas against Dan Haren in a 6-3 victory Saturday.
”That’s a good ballclub, no doubt about it, and it’s not an easy lineup to navigate through,” Hochevar said. ”They’re stacked from one to nine, so I knew that I had to execute a lot of quality pitches. That was my focus, especially with Haren on the mound. Early on, I think the results were better than my execution, and then I kind of hit a groove in the fourth and started making a lot of quality pitches in key situations.”
Hochevar (1-0) was charged with two runs and five hits over 6 1-3 innings in his season debut. The right-hander, who was the first overall pick in the 2006 draft by the Royals and their opening-day starter last year, came in 0-3 with a with an 8.02 ERA in his four previous starts against the Angels.
Hochevar gave up a pair of one-out singles in the seventh and was relieved by Tim Collins with a 5-0 lead. Bobby Abreu lined the left-hander’s first pitch into the right field corner for an RBI double and Torii Hunter scored on a groundout by Vernon Wells.
The Angels, who were shut out through the first five innings a major league-worst 50 times last season – have done so in each of their first two games despite the addition of three-time NL MVP Albert Pujols. Friday night they won their opener 5-0 with a five-run eighth after getting blanked for six innings by Bruce Chen.
”We’re still in spring training mode and pitchers are way ahead of us, but I think we’ll catch up soon. You can’t panic right now with 160 games to go,” Hunter said. ”Today was one of those days. Hochevar kept us off-balance and we couldn’t score any runs off him. He changed speeds, had his cutter working, and that’s something we couldn’t make adjustments on.”
Jonathan Broxton, who became the Royals’ closer after two-time All-Star Joakim Soria had season-ending Tommy John surgery April 3, followed Collins and Greg Holland out of the bullpen and got the final three outs after inheriting a 6-2 lead. He gave up a sacrifice fly by Abreu before retiring Wells on a game-ending double play.
Broxton hasn’t had a save since May 2, 2011, with the Dodgers – he was shut down two days later because of bone spurs in his elbow and missed the rest of the season. The Royals signed him as a free agent in November.
”It feels pretty good to get out there again. My elbow felt fine,” said the two-time All-Star. ”It was very frustrating last year, especially because I couldn’t go out there and help the team win. I hated that the season ended up the way it did for me, but hopefully they got everything straight. I’m fine right now, so we’ll just continue to go forward.”
Pujols got his first hit with Los Angeles, a double in the fourth. He lined a 2-2 pitch over the head of left fielder Alex Gordon with one out in the fourth and tried to score on a single to left by Kendrys Morales. But Gordon, who won a Gold Glove last season, charged the ball and made a one-hop throw to the plate to get Pujols, whose hook slide appeared to have beaten Humberto Quintero’s tag.
Haren (0-1) gave up five runs and 11 hits over 5 1-3 innings and struck out five. Morales was 4 for 4 with a double in his second game with the Angels after a severe ankle injury in 2010, when he jumped on home plate after a walkoff grand slam.
Jeff Francoeur, playing in his 1,000th regular-season game, hit a two-run single with the bases loaded in the first. It was the fourth straight hit allowed by Haren, who minimized the damage by striking out Betancourt and Moustakas. Quintero led off the Royals’ second with the first of his two doubles and scored on Lorenzo Cain’s sacrifice fly.
”I didn’t make too many quality pitches, and that’s a recipe for disaster,” Haren said. ”I threw too many pitches up in the zone and wasn’t really controlling the count too well. Obviously they got off to a quick start, getting four singles in a row, and I just never really got into a rhythm. … But you’ve got to hand it to them. They’ve got a good ballclub and they did the most with the pitches I left out over the plate.”
Notes: Pujols, who was 0 for 3 with a walk in his Angels debut, has never gone hitless in his first two games of the season. … Francoeur’s first big league game was on July 7, 2005, with Atlanta. … It was the first time that Moustakas and Hosmer homered in the same game since making their big league debuts five weeks apart last season. … pujols grounded into a double play his first time up, something he did a career-high 29 times last season – including three on opening day.